Fifty-Two: Sudden Death

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Draco stared down the battlefield at me. I could practically see his face through the armor plating of his robot, creased with tension. My knuckles were white on the Spectre's controls.

He was piloting an unknown robot with a powerful ability. Dangerous, but untested. I controlled one of the strongest robots in the history of the Iron War, but I was already damaged.

Fifty percent armor integrity was all that stood between me and a sudden death. Both of us stood at odds, frozen in the moment before combat. Who would break the calm?

Draco inhaled, a small, slight gasp.
"You-"

I launched into the air with a shout of indignation, willing my HUD to tell me I was in range to fire. The numbers on screen counted down like a timer. Only delaying Fisk's fate, not stopping it.

After a three-second eternity my HUD flashed to life, targeting systems in range. My Vortex cannons began to spin as the target lock confirmed. My Orkans blazed a burning line of fire through the air, striking the ground, just as Fisk's Mercury propelled itself skyward, soaring far past me and smashing into the sand at the same moment I did.

I braced myself for the impact, the burning flash, but was left blessedly unscathed. Fisk had missed his jump! But how? His lack of experience or my surplus of luck?

I pivoted as he did and opened fire. I was in range! His Magnums lapped at my armor as my Orkans jackhammered against his. We ran parallel to each other, each searching for cover against the onslaught. His Dragoon bit into my armor, blue plasma eating up my armor. My HUD flashed.

Armor integrity at forty-one percent.

Administer repairs as soon as possible.

Confrontation not recommended.

I fired my Vortexes just before he made it behind cover. The explosive impact was muffled by the wreckage Fisk hid behind, but his growling confirmed a hit. I could practically hear Draco's teeth gnashing together- when he played, he only played to win. But this time it was no game. Our lives and the fate of the Great Iron War both hung in the balance. I darted to the opposite side of the debris, the large shard of metal dividing us, the remains of an aileron broken off by the Dreadnought's impact.

"It doesn't have to end this way, Quinn," Draco huffed. He sounded winded.

"You made your choice the day you joined the TMC," I responded.

"Let me show you what the Transatlantic Military Corporation is really about," Fisk continued. "A tour of the facility, a look at our projects, even a job offer, should you take it."

From where I stood it seemed we were practically back to back, robots pressed against cover. A few meters of metal were all that lay between us. It was maddening. I wanted to turn and tear into the barrier with my Orkans, but knew that I couldn't. It likely would've done nothing, anyway. There was no sense wasting valuable ammo.

"Come out and fight like a true pilot!" I shouted.

Draco prattled on, unperturbed.
"Think about it! Jackson Quinn, manager, no, head manager of War Robot development!"

A blowing tendril of sand alerted me to movement. I spun around, expecting Fisk's Mercury, but instead found my own reflection, the Spectre's scratched blue hull reflected in a flat, reflective piece of metal. At the corner of the debris I saw a distorted shape moving towards me. Fisk had been stalling for time!

That meant he was closer than I had expected.

Seconds later, plasma beat against the back of my robot and I leapt into the air, firing on his position. A few seconds later Fisk's Mercury impacted the spot I'd just been standing, throwing sand into the clear blue sky. That was too close.

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